UI profs: Attitudes like that of grad fired from Google are what's harmful

UI profs: Attitudes like that of grad fired from Google are what's harmful

URBANA — Last fall, nearly half of the freshmen entering the highly rated computer science department at the University of Illinois were women — a new high.

It was a significant gain for a unit where a large majority of the faculty are male and where just five years ago the percentage of female incoming students was below 10 percent.

A concerted effort to recruit more undergraduate women, led by Associate Department Head Lenny Pitt, landed a $100,000 national award last spring.

Which could explain why professors there found comments by James Damore, the Google software engineer and UI biology graduate fired this week, both "misguided" and potentially harmful.

Damore's 10-page memo to his superiors, which provoked outrage when it leaked publicly and led to his dismissal, criticized Google's diversity programs and argued that biological differences could explain why women are not equally represented in the technology industry.

Among other things, he said that women are more prone to anxiety and have a lower tolerance for stress.

Professor Vikram Adve, interim head of the UI Department of Computer Science, which is consistently rated among the top five in the country, said the department has put significant effort and resources into increasing women's participation in computer science. Currently, women account for 14 of the 83 faculty members in the department, from lecturers to full tenured professors, according to its website.

"For anyone who has worked on the issue so much, the claims made in Damore's memo appear deeply uninformed and, frankly, harmful. For example, one widely cited factor for low female participation in computing jobs is the perceived attitude of their male colleagues and the perceived hostile working environments they face. This memo simply reinforces those negative perceptions," Adve wrote in an email to The News-Gazette.

"More generally, I believe the memo itself is just an expression of one person's (misguided) opinions, but the larger issues of the numerous headwinds and sexism faced by women in the IT workforce is a serious one. This incident has made some of those issues a national topic of conversation," Adve said.

In 2015, women earned 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees nationwide, but less than one-fifth of all computer and information science degrees, according to the UI.

The UI department created outreach efforts for high school and middle-school girls such as the GEMS (Girls Engaged in Math and Science) computer science camp, ChicTech, Girls Who Code and Women in Computer Science Visit Day. It also tried to eliminate the effects of implicit bias in admissions and diversified its curriculum.

Partly in response to the huge demand for computer science degrees, the department has collaborated with other units to create six "CS + X" bachelor's degree programs, which allow students to combine computer science with technical or professional training in arts and sciences, such as astronomy, chemistry, crop sciences and music.

Women last year made up 46.1 percent of entering freshmen in the department, compared to 24.6 percent in 2014.

But aside from general diversity goals, Pitt said, it makes sense to have more women in the field.

High demand in the IT workforce will be difficult to meet in coming years, "so it would be foolish to ignore half the population from the talent pool," he said.

"Half the consumer base is female, and one wants to make design choices that are informed by personal experience, something that might be lacking in an all-male team," he added.

Studies also show that corporations with women in top management yield more profit than male-only firms, and diverse companies have an easier time recruiting and better employee retention. And research shows that diverse teams are better at problem-solving, he said.

"If you have a team of people with different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, you get a wider range of possible solutions," Pitt said.

Damore, 28, who is from Romeoville, graduated from the UI in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology, with minors in physics and chemistry. He received University Honors for graduating in the top 3 percent of his class.

After graduating from the UI, he did research in systems biology at MIT and Harvard, then enrolled at Harvard for two years but dropped out before completing his Ph.D.

Conservatives have risen to his defense, arguing that tech companies like Google suppress contrary viewpoints on issues like diversity. Damore has filed a complaint against the company.

Infamous Illini

Throughout 2017, we've shared stories of UI graduates who've gone on to greatness. But, we were reminded this week, not all alums who've made national news have done so for walking in space (Mike Hopkins) or moderating a VP debate (Elaine Quijano). These four have given the UI the sort of publicity it would rather do without.


Master's in education and psychology, 2004

St. Louis Cardinals' former scouting director was sentenced last summer to nearly four years in prison for hacking the Houston Astros' player personnel database in an attempt to gain a competitive edge.


Bachelor's in molecular and cellular biology, 2010

28-year-old engineer was fired by Google after writing in a memo that biological differences between men and women may explain why women are not equally represented in the technology industry.


Law, 1993

Former congressman and son of the civil rights leader was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in 2013 after being found guilty of looting about $750,000 from his federal campaign treasury.


Master's in civil engineering, 2004

Ohioan is awaiting trial after he and three others were indicted in 2015 on charges of supporting terrorism for allegedly providing financial support to Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

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scott_tapley wrote on August 10, 2017 at 9:08 am

Author: Nothing could be more dystopian than the largest information, communication, and documentation hub controlling your thoughts and punishing you for wrongthink.



wayward wrote on August 10, 2017 at 9:08 am

The "Infamous Illini" section is kind of strange. You've got two people convicted of felonies, one indicted for supporting terrorism, and then a former Google engineer who hasn't been accused of breaking any laws. "One of these things is not like the others...."

Beem wrote on August 10, 2017 at 9:08 am

From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

"From the time a girl reaches puberty until about the age of 50, she is twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man. Anxiety disorders also occur earlier in women than in men.

"Women are also more likely to have multiple psychiatric disorders during their lifetime than men. The most common to co-occur with anxiety is depression."

I wonder if the person who wrote this for their website be fired, too?

JohnRalphio wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

That depends. Did they use this claim as a justification for why women are inferior? Did they write it up into a poorly written screed and then pass it around to thousands of their co-workers? Did they create a whole lot of bad PR and internal mistrust and a poorer work environment for their employees? If so, then YES OF COURSE.

rsp wrote on August 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Went to the website and looked it over. They suggest 32% of the total population has depression and anxiety disorders. They list several classifications, with some only having 2-3 percent, with women having a higher number. In some men were higher. The number with depression is 6.7% for men and women. That's a treatable illness. Are you suggesting women (and men for that matter) can't do math because they have a medical condition? And what about the rest of the population?

It really helps to know what you are reading.

Also, women are more likely to go to see a doctor and take care of themselves, men are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. With less attitudes like yours things can change.

wykhb wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

As you say, and as noted in your other comment, reading with comprehension can be an amazing experience.  "Women are more likely than men to see a doctor and take care of themselves", are you suggesting that women have more medical problems than men? 

"Men are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol".   Can you back that up with scientific research citation?  Or is it something you heard or read about somewhere, perhaps on Google?   Actual recent data show that women are quickly catching up, and women are also the fastest growing group being incarcerated, so is it okay to say that women are more likely to be criminals than men?       

I am only pressing you because everyone should think before they reach conclusions, this incredibly bright young man is getting railroaded in the name of political correctness and social engineering and it's ridiculous.  Top of the class, did everything right, hired by prestigious company with much experience hiring top people, they ask for input to help improve diversity and he provides it, next thing you see are the torches and pitchforks to burn him at the stake, except  he committed NO CRIME, none at all.    It's a bit much and adults should have thicker skin. 

As for depression and anxiety, here is scientific research, aka fact:  wide variety of sources, deny it if you wish, but it's there to be read if you really want to know the truth:

Most studies show women tend to score higher on the personality trait most closely associated with negative emotionality—neuroticism (Feingold, 1994; Schmitt et al., 2008). In a meta-analysis across 25 studies, for instance, Feingold (1994) found women score higher in anxiety (d = -0.27). Several large cross-cultural studies have confirmed these sex differences across dozens of nations (Costa et al., 2001; Lippa, 2010; Schmitt et al., 2008). De Bolle (2015) found sex differences in neuroticism among adolescents universally emerge across all cultures at about the same age (around 14, implicating pubertal hormones as a proximate cause; see also Hyde et al., 2008, on other biological/hormonal origins of sex differences in negative emotionality). In large cross-cultural samples of adults, women have been found to score higher in overall neuroticism in studies of 26 nations (d = -0.26; Costa et al., 2001), 53 nations (d = -0.41; Lippa, 2010), and 56 nations (d = -0.40; Schmitt et al., 2008).

Interestingly, all of these cross-cultural studies find sex differences in neuroticism are larger in cultures with more sociopolitical gender equity. That's right, in more gender egalitarian nations sex differences in neuroticism are larger, not smaller as would be expected if sex differences come only from gender roles, gendered socialization, and patriarchy (see chart below contrasting neuroticism scores of men and women from Northern Europe and Africa; Schmitt, 2015).

Similar results are found in studies depression. Men and women tend to differ in average levels of depression (Hyde et al., 2008), a sex difference that is apparent in most cultures (Hopcroft & McLaughlin, 2012; Van de Velde, Bracke, & Levecque, 2010). The sex gap in depression is wider in high gender equity societies than in low gender equity societies. Hopcroft speculates that this is due in part to differential effects of children on feelings of depression for women in high and low equity countries. For women in high gender equity countries, children promote feelings of depression, whereas for unemployed women in low gender equity countries the reverse is true. There is little difference in the effect of children on feelings of depression for men in high and low gender equity countries. This can explain the paradoxical finding that while gender equity boosts mental health on average, it creates a wider sex gap in depression.


read the DI wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Please tell us more, Mr. Science.

wykhb wrote on August 10, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Ask your bridge, it misses it's Troll. 

OldIlliniFan wrote on August 10, 2017 at 10:08 am

Prof. Adve's response is a classic case of shooting the messenger.  Damore makes a lot of good points, which help explain why women account for 14 of the 83 faculty members in Adve's department. Grouping Damore in with felons and terrorists is a clumsy attempt at avoiding what he has to say. The News-Gazette has buried the lead in the last sentence, which is that Google suppresses contrary viewpoints.

CallSaul wrote on August 10, 2017 at 11:08 am

Poor misogynists --- that darn all powerful Matriarchy just won't let them catch a break.

Courage, dudebros, MRAs and noble, if often hygenically challenged, MGTOW...your day will come following one glorious dawn and the oppressed males will finally be free of their chains and shackles!!11!!!!1!

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 10, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Says the guy who said that women should not carry guns for they are weak.


But I digress................


These are the worst people from Illinois in 2017?  really?  You have included a 28 yoa who wrote a paper that he believed in  ( freedom of speech.. you know the 1st amendment) and you put him in a group that includes a mentally ill person?  So the NG is saying that because you are mentally ill, you are infamous?  His mental illness prevented him from doing the right thing.. which BTW was using his own campaign fund... not tax money... his own campaign fund.    So.. the NG believes in shaming the mentally ill.  How nice.


In the giant pathos of criminals who have attended or taught at the U of I  ( James Kilgore anyone) this group to quote the President


Is the JV team.


This was a horrible article and the writer should be ashamed.

wykhb wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Same person who contributes nothing constructive to any conversation, only racist and misogynistic attacks meant to gain attention by pissing people off enough to answer it.   This is a sad and lonely person with a lot of self-hate and regret, I wouldn't be too sure this is a guy though, it's certainly not a man no matter what it identifies as.    

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 11, 2017 at 7:08 am




looks like Saullie that one of those poor  weak women  that you  who should not be allowed to  carry ccw because they might get the gun taken away  ( your words not mine Saullie) and used on others,. didnt loose her gun and ended the problem.   Thoughts on this weak and inept woman solving the issue of a domestic battery between her and her significant other?  Your the law enforcement expert.  You have friends and family who are the police.  You tell me that all the time.

CallSaul wrote on August 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

My thoughts are that the fact that you cling to this lie is a perfect illustration of the reactionary 'alt right' you're such a loyal heelclicking keyboard warrior for.

For decades, the ever more reactionary right in this country has grown increaslingly unhinged and divorced from reality.

This desperate repetition of this obvious and clumsy misrepresentation of what I actually said is and has been SOP for rightwingers and the Republican party --- now and forever the Party of Trump.

And the consequence, the head buffoon of your reality denying revanchist fantasists is taking us to the brink of nuclear war.

It's only the relative sanity of the NK leader --- in stark contrast to the American president --- who can stop it.

And this isn't some brilliant eleventy dimensional chess version of Nixon's already kookoo 'madman theory.' It's just another lunatic rightwing reactionary unconcerned with mere facts and reality with his itchy twitter fingers who has access to another button.

When you cling to your delusions in the face of reality on issues like ham handedly misrepresenting my comments, it's just weird, if tediously predictable.

But when your head lunatic buffoon does it, millions could die.

So while you'll never be anything more than what normal people scrape off the bottom of their shoes before coming inside, Trump's lunacy is truly frightening...

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 10:08 am

Let's all chip in and buy Saul a ticket to Guam.

CallSaul wrote on August 11, 2017 at 11:08 am

Typical keyboard kommando chickenhawk --- joking about your lunatic leader Trump causing the incineration of hundreds of thousands of Guamian citizens and tens of thousands of US military personnel and families.

No wonder you're such a loyal heelclicker for Five Deferrment Donnie, with those awful bone spurs on his tender little feet and who brags about how he thinks attempting to avoid VD in 1980s Manhattan was his 'own personal Vietnam.'

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 11:08 am

I'd be happy to compare DD214s with you... 

CallSaul wrote on August 11, 2017 at 11:08 am

The impossibility of testing the veracity of that claim aside, the fact is that you considered the possiblity of all those civilian and military deaths and saw nothing but fodder for an attempt at a stale joke.

And of course those deaths would only be a small prelude, so you'd have many other chances to find hilarity in the ensuing nuclear destruction...

I suppose there's no chance of you volunteering to cowboy up to the front lines of the DMZ, huh...?

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

You not having a DD214 does make that comparison impossible. Thanks for confirming, but in all honesty I already suspected that. 

CallSaul wrote on August 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

So when will you be leaving us for the DMZ...?

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

The core difference between me and beta bois like you; is that if asked I would certianly go.  Having already volunteered once it isnt a big stretch for me to do it again.  Sadly, not being in my 20s and at top physical fitness I wouldn't be able to keep up with the newest batch of warriors.  However, knowledge and experience do have positives you wouldn't understand in situations involving combat stress reactions; and I can still shoot straight.


So what is your excuse?  Afraid everyone would get so sick of you, you'd suffer a "training accident"?  Believe me, based on past interactions on here, it is highly likely.

CallSaul wrote on August 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Your caricatured performative hypermasculinity does nothing so much as broadcast what a scared, insecure, self doubting and obviously very confused and conflicted little boy you are.

So it's not surprising that, like the other little boy RWNJ local trolls on here, you're so drawn to performative misogyny as well.

Do you really htink the people who read this aren't looking at your flailing impotent gyrations and laughing...? Especially the women, just as it's no doubt always been for you, huh...?

wykhb wrote on August 12, 2017 at 1:08 am

Unlike when you were rejected, women serve in the military now Saul, try to get over the hard feelings.    It is odd to see you denigrate others who did serve, and the President for not serving when you didn't either, especially when you refuse to answer the simple questions given to you.  

Out of curiosity, are you a secretary at a college, a dropout, or a graduate with a worthless degree?   You reek of liberal academia delusion, but you are way overboard on the language and under on knowledge, like you pretend a lot and just make things up, okay I mean you lie a lot, but...      You aren't fooling anyone except yourself.   


CallSaul wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

After being caught lying, most normal people would be too embarrassed to continue peddling the lie, but it's not really surprising that you and the other RWNJ don't fit that description...

CommonSenseless wrote on August 11, 2017 at 8:08 am

Yet here you still are...

JohnRalphio wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Damore made zero good points. His reasoning and "scientific" claims were deeply sexist and flawed. But the "Infamous Illini" bit at the end of this article was dumb and unhelpful. It's clearly just another cheap shot at the university by the N-G.

wayward wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Agreed.  The "Infamous Illini" bit was weird -- seems like Brendt Christensen might have fit in better with the others than James Damore, given that the "manifesto" clearly didn't break any laws.

read the DI wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Far too much is being made of this. He's just another loser who couldn't hack the working world and because his mommy never breast-fed him, he has anger issues with women and with no social skills to boot. Move on and stop giving this loser the attention he never deserved.

read the DI wrote on August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Far too much is being made of this. He's just another loser who couldn't hack the working world and because his mommy never breast-fed him, he has anger issues with women and with no social skills to boot. Move on and stop giving this loser the attention he never deserved.

BruckJr wrote on August 10, 2017 at 2:08 pm

A department spokesperson indicated that the goal is to reduce the percentage of male students in the program.  To that end they have put up a number of barriers for men in the form of policies and programs intended exclusively for females, with much success.  The percentage of incoming male students has been driven from 90% five years ago to just over 50% today.  But clearly much work remains to be done.  Though the department will probably never be able to drive males out completely they can likely move closer to that goal with just a few more discriminatory policies.  By further decreasing admission standards for females and by offering full ride scholarships for any prospective student with more than one X chromosome it is reasonable to believe the males can be cast into the minority by the end of the decade.

rsp wrote on August 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm

It's amazing you saw all that in there.

wykhb wrote on August 10, 2017 at 6:08 pm

I see it all right there too, because it plainly states that diversity efforts have raised the number of females enrolled in the program by almost 25% over three years, and lowered male enrollment by about the same.  Also special degree programs have been created which are more favorable to women, not that women are different in any way, ya know?   

What's not to understand, females are being given favorable treatment in an effort to be politically correct, I take no position on it, just reiterating what the article says.   UI department has been ranked top five, what actually matters is the graduation rate and reputation of it's graduates, only time will tell if that ranking will stand.   

read the DI wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

"...diversity efforts have raised the number of females enrolled in the program by almost 25% over three years, and lowered male enrollment by about the same."

Is there a third gender only you know about?

BruckJr wrote on August 10, 2017 at 8:08 pm

How insensitive.  Ask our liberal friends out west:  http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/oregon-becomes-first-state-add-third-gender-driver-s-licenses-n772891

wykhb wrote on August 10, 2017 at 8:08 pm

There is certainly a third grade, you should have stuck around.  It looks like a see-n-say is more your speed son. 

Cow says moo, troll says..   well, actually you don't contribute anything now do you?   

OldIlliniFan wrote on August 10, 2017 at 7:08 pm

The News-Gazette article displays an excessive degree of parochialism.  Related articles in the WSJ do not mention the University of Illinois at all, making the 'Infamous Illini' section bizarre.  One poll of Google workers shows that a small majority favor Damore's opinions, suggesting that the 'outrage' statement and the 'misguided' comment are unsupported.  Overall grade for the article, D+.

Sid Saltfork wrote on August 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I assume that all the anti-genders commenters have/had mothers.  The same applies to those with wifes.  Although, their ex-wifes probably out number their present wifes.  Over 50% of the country are women.  Express your views of female inferiority to your co-workers, and at home. 

One of the differences between boys, and men is the ability to see others instead of self.  Basically, grow up boys.  Anti-gender comments will leave you lonely unless you move to Afghanastan.


wykhb wrote on August 11, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Here is a good article addressing how the outside (of Champipple) world looks at this issue:


Annotator wrote on August 12, 2017 at 6:08 pm

The real reason for the termination of Mr. Damore, is his violation of the employment contract he agreed to when employed by the corporation.  The corporation's infrastructure isn't to be used for anything other the work he was assigned to perform.  A software engineer isn't assigned to write ten page documents decrying circumstances of female, or male, employees of corporations, and especially not your current employer!  Mr. Damore over-stepped his contractual obligations, using his employer's infrastructure and the time he was paid to perform other tasks.  Anything else is irrelevant to his termination.

Chip Cogswelle wrote on August 12, 2017 at 6:08 pm

As an "old-school" veteran of 1980s-2010 era high-tech (San Diego), I have a couple of observations:

1. Is it a big surprise that geniuses (sounds Damore qualifies) don't all have great social skills, and learning the nuances of "playing well with others" often eludes them.

2. Dornan was being paid to work at Google as an engineer--not an HR expert, philosopher, corporate conscience, or the like.

In my day, the question would be, "James, don't you have some work to do?" and "Are you aware that a corporation can LEGALLY stifle what you regard as your right to free speech, and fire you for espousing views that are a polar opposite of the company's policies?"